What type of business?

You’re a creative person who wants to make great work and get paid fairly for it. You don’t relish the time spent dealing with ‘non-creative’ things like bookkeeping, taxation and chasing clients for money. You don’t enjoy selling yourself to people who don’t understand what you are talking about. And you certainly don’t want to spend half your day answering the phone. You’d like people to do all these things for you, but you can’t afford to employ even one assistant, let alone a business manager, sales rep, secretary, bookkeeper or lawyer. Sound familiar? Here’s a comforting thought: You’re not alone.

In fact, you’re in the majority – it’s natural for creative people to want to devote as much time as possible to being creative, making great work and getting well paid for it. Sounds like a utopian dream? But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible – at least some of the time. With this goal in mind, here’s how you go about dealing with the business side. You could:

  1. Find a group of people who have a similar attitude to their work who want to pool their talents and resources to create a structure that enables you all to be what you want to be.
  2. Seek out freelance service providers who have enough experience of the area you work in to be able to take on specific tasks such as sales, accounting and production.
  3. Do it all yourself.
  4. Work for someone else.

If you can find a company to employ you which is enlightened enough to give you the space and support you need to do your work, one that doesn’t require you to do work you hate, one that gives you some ownership of your intellectual property and one that pays you well for it – then you just may be the luckiest person in the world.

If you have the time, skills and focus required to do it all yourself then you’ll have earned your freedom and independence. And probably sacrificed the bulk of your leisure time. There are a few very gifted creative people who can juggle business and creative activity equally well, but it’s not the norm. There’s no shame in acknowledging that you can’t do everything. Recognise what you really want to do, and get on with it.

If you can find reliable, affordable freelance agents, managers, producers and representatives who can make enough income out of your work to give you individual attention and support, then you might already be making a very good living. Good people are hard to find – mainly because good people are already very busy.

Talented creative people are not rare. Talented creative business managers are not quite as common. Part of the reason for this is historical.

Good creative manager/producers will head for the areas where they are most likely to make a lot of money. Traditional creative businesses, where the flow of money to the creators is well understood and potentially massive, are the most enticing. Music and film are two obvious areas where a ‘hit’ (creative work that spontaneously creates a demand which outstrips supply) can generate a very serious amount of money. This is because the ways of exploiting music and film based intellectual property are very well established and creative fees can be based on a percentage of income (royalties, profit share, points etc.). Hence the abundance of business managers in these industries who are experts in such areas as contract negotiation, production management, product licensing and marketing etc.

Unfortunately there are many other creative industries which don’t typically generate large amounts of commissionable income. A lot of creative work is still traded on a ‘work for hire’ basis. However, with the rise of direct marketing via the Internet, this is now changing. As the global economy becomes available to independent creators, the rise of the ‘prosumer’ predicted by Alvin Toffler is creating a place for energetic, innovative entrepreneurs to start making a good living.

So no wonder creative people are forming groups and sharing their facilities and resources.

The creative company is born. The question is, what shape should it be?

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